The year in design review: Diageo, PepsiCo, HSBC, Irn Bru and more

From design’s changing role in business to a number of rather questionable rebrands, The Drum takes a look back at some of the biggest developments and events in design during 2015.

Design continues to move closer to business

As brands continue to wisen up to the fact that design is a must-have, not a nice-to have, when it comes to driving business, the changes are now starting to come to fruition – particularly among larger brands. At PepsiCo since the appointment of the company’s first ever chief design officer Mauro Porcini in 2012, the food and drink giant has steadily been working to implement design thinking through the entire business to drive innovation and better understand its consumers.

One product borne out of this new thinking was PepsiCo Nspire, a new innovation kitchen on wheels in US that features an array of its brands to sample and its digital drinks fountain Spire. PepsiCo’s global design team worked in collaboration with industrial designer Karim Rashid to Nspire and provide consumers with a dynamic and contemporary opportunity to engage with the company's brands.

Over at Diageo, the drinks giant is currently carrying out a “significant body of work” to understand the importance of its brand assets such as wordmarks and logos in its marketing. Global design director Jeremy Lindley told The Drum it has learned a great deal about visual recognition.

“We’ve build that into our approach to marketing and we’ve trained our marketeers – so that’s had a quite big impact in driving stronger instant recognition of our marketing materials… that’s probably one of the most powerful areas of impact that design has been having on the business recently”.


The more digital our lives become the more we want bespoke messaging and experiences, and this too translated increasingly into design, most notably in packaging. It’s old news that Coca-Cola once again rolled out its personalised packaging campaign ‘Share a Coke’, however it’s a trend that has begun to explode across other brands and sectors as marketers look to live up to consumer expectations.

Snickers this year released new packaging designs that replaced the brand mark with words such as cranky and hungry to reflects its ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ campaign message. Elsewhere Heinz’s Get Well Soup campaign allowed people to personalise a tin of soup and have it sent to a sick relative or friend, and Jones knowles ritchie’s work for Irn-Bru saw the brand replace its labels for 52 of Scotland’s most popular tartans. “As marketers seek new ways to achieve more targeted messaging, design is well poised to deliver individualised and relevant content,” wrote jkr’s strategy director Katie Ewer.

Plain cigarette packaging debate

In March this year the government announced that it is likely to ban branding on cigarette packaging from May 2016, a move that would mandate all manufacturers to strip graphics and colour from their packets. Just last week tobacco companies including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco kicked off a legal challenge to the ban, but how was the news received by the design industry? Hugh Roberts, strategy partner at Design Bridge, argued consumers should fight against the plain packaging proposals.

“Design makes the world a better place. Amongst other things, it helps us make the right choices. So, it seems obvious that by stripping design away from tobacco packaging we are helping consumers to make the right choice; the choice to give up smoking or to never start.”

Meanwhile Jonathan Ford, founding partner and chief creative officer, Pearlfisher, told The Drum that the removal of colour shouldn’t be the main point of discussion, suggesting that legislation for standardised packaging provides an opportunity for design to create real change in people’s perception of smoking.

HSBC and RBS ‘rebrand’

The most underwhelming rebrands of 2015 come from the banking sector in a year that saw HSBC become HSBC UK and RBS… rbs. HSBC decided on the new name following a “comprehensive consultation process”, which precedes the ring-fencing legislation which requires UK banks to split their retail arm into seperate subsidiaries by 2019. However HSBC’s branding and logo is not expected to undergo such an ambitious overhaul and looks set to remain.

RBS’ decision to move the brand to lowercase comes as it continues to polish its tarnished image following the 2008 government bailout. Perhaps more daring is the decision to remove the four-cornered shape on the RBS logo, known internally as the daisy wheel, from corporate communications.

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